In early 1994 I was working at the Time-Life Building, as technology lead for Time Warner Interactive’s East Coast office. It was an exciting location, 22 stories above Rockefeller Center, in a building buzzing with Time-Life’s empire of magazines editorial staff.
One of my goals was to configure the TWI offices with the 1994 version of a digital media production studio. This would enable our producers to create interactive television content for Time Warner’s planned Full Service Network deployment, scheduled for April in Orlando, Florida.
As I set up the studio, I received impromptu visits from editors of just about every magazine in the house who had heard about the new, cutting edge project: Sports Illustrated, Money Magazine, Martha Stewart (herself) Living, and others. They had heard the hype about our planned digital TV convergence, and wanted to get the inside scoop. These were journalists after all!
Late one afternoon Walter Isaacson, Time magazine’s Editor of New Media popped into my office. He asked me how FSN was coming along. I knew it would not be ready for the scheduled April 15th launch, and TWI management had me on gag orders. So, reluctantly, I had little to give Mr. Isaacson. In reality, two months from the proposed launch, there was also very little to even demo. We were still waiting for the TV set top hardware and operating system to be delivered by our technology partners at Silicon Graphics (SGI). If I had told Walter what was really going on with the ill fated FSN project, I would have been in serious hot water with my immediate TWI superiors. So, zip it I did.
Looking back, I wish we had chatted on a more honest and realistic level. I doubt that knowing the truth, the outcome of FSN would have been much different. It was the wrong design at the wrong time. Time Warner Cable was attempting to create its own interactive digital movie on demand network. These were the early days of cyberspace, and the Internet was regarded with great suspicion and skepticism, especially by an established print media giant.
Isaacson is a contemporary of mine. We are both born on the same year, so I enjoy following his career, and am especially impressed by his recent writing of the Steve Jobs biography. Now we can carry the FSN in our pocket.